St Thomas' best kept secret
Locals earn from little known ‘Reggae Falls
BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment email@example.com
WATERFALLS cascading several feet to the Johnson River in Hillside, St Thomas not only serve as a relaxing place for visitors wanting to spend an enjoyable day with nature, but also provide an income to the many unemployed residents in this farming district.
They have eked out a living working as tour guides, car washers, babysitters and cooks for the many locals and foreigners alike who are known to visit the area, which is being described as St Thomas' best kept secret.
The residents claim the water, which spouts warm from a section of the rock, contains sulphur and assists in healing wounds.
"If you have a wound and you go in the water you frighten fi see how quick it heal," explained resident Deborah Whyte.
Although they have been earning, albeit in an ad hoc manner, the residents are calling on tourism organisations to help them secure formal training as official tour guides and to help them improve Reggae Falls — as they have since dubbed it – by putting in sanitray and other conveniences. They also want the Jamaica Tourist Board to promote the facility locally and overseas, to attract more visitors.
According to the residents, visitors prefer to come to Reggae Falls instead of Bath Fountain because it is much more quiet and there is less harassment.
Whyte, who often works as tour guide, car washer and even babysitter said the facility has the potential to provide a steady income.
"When the visitors them come, if wi have some lime or a plantain or some jelly wi carry it come down here. We might see a crowd and wi tell them we have some lime and them say go pick it and carry come and just like that we mek a sale," she said.
According to Whyte, who escorted the Jamaica Observer North East on a treacherous track to a shallow area in the river which allowed for easy crossing to the nearby falls, the visitors are the ones who often request the residents' assistance as tour guides.
"Sometimes them will come from all over Jamaica and overseas, and will ask us to direct them to the falls and we would take them over to there," she said.
"Because we know the area, we know when it raining in the head of the river and we tell them so they can know where to go," she said.
Whyte further explained that when the river is dry some people will drive their SUVs through the river bed to the closest point to the falls. When this happens, the residents might not earn from guiding tours, but they will from cooking and selling food along the river.
The mother of two said only recently a large group of police officers visited the area, which provided a decent earning for people who were willing to wash cars.
"Mi mek $13,000 that day washing cars," she said, adding: "Sometimes I even earn money by babysitting the children while the parents go up to the falls".
Joan Harris said the summer is the busiest period for the residents as this is when the largest number of persons visit.
"People feel safe to come here because the residents look out for them and they know they are going to come back and see their vehicle the same way dem leave it," she said.
"On a holiday, you don't have space up there and not even Dunn's River can test that time, because people come from as far as Westmoreland," she added.
Residents also earn by allowing visitors to park in their yards for $100, or from vending the produce they farm.
"Sometimes when you see the high-end vehicles that come up here and even more people would come if they knew about it because of how lovely the falls is and also because the community is safe," said Harris.
Font Hill resident Daneisha Wright, who was visiting the falls at the time the Observer North East was there, said this was one of her favourite spot in the parish.
"I always come here as often as I can because it is a lovely place," she said before diving off a huge rock into the river below.